Melo Hits 25k, Roberson Leaves with Injury, Thunder Closes Out 7th Straight Win – OKC 121, DET 108

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

DETROIT -- Things were going about as smoothly as possible for the Thunder on Saturday afternoon on the road against a hungry Detroit Pistons squad. Carmelo Anthony followed up a 14-point first half with four quick points, including two free throws that pushed him past the 25,000-point mark for his career. Those foul shots came in the midst of a 15-0 run to start the third quarter, turning a 12-point halftime lead all the way out to a 27-point edge. Three minutes later, the mood darkened instantaneously.

Andre Roberson sprinted in along the baseline from the corner, like he’s done hundreds of times before, and as he leapt off his left leg to sky for a Russell Westbrook backdoor alley-oop lob, something went wrong. In mid-air Roberson stopped, went horizontal and landed hard, flat on his back. As Thunder teammates gathered around him, the Thunder medical staff took Roberson off in a stretcher, stabilizing his left leg. While the severity of the injury is uncertain, Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan said after the game that it is a patellar tendon injury.

“We’re going to find out more details and imaging when we get back to Oklahoma,” Donovan reported. “It’s unfortunate.”

It took a lot of courage to resume play and fight on after Roberson left the game, and it showed on the scoreboard. That secure Thunder lead was slashed down to 14 towards the end of the third quarter, then all the way down to nine points on four occasions in the fourth quarter. The Thunder managed to respond on each occasion.

“From an emotional standpoint, it’s very hard to get back into a competitive mindset after seeing one of your guys go down like that,” Anthony said.

With 5:58 to go, Westbrook scored on an attack, then with 4:30 got to the free throw line to push the lead back to double digits. With 3:28 remaining, Paul George swung the ball to rookie Terrance Ferguson, who with no hesitation or fear drained a three-pointer. Finally, with 1:27 to go, Westbrook hit Steven Adams for a floater in the lane before the Thunder point guard drained a 35-foot three-pointer with 54.5 seconds left to seal the Thunder’s seventh-straight win, a 121-108 victory in Motown.

“It was a real emotional finish. It was tough to close this one out under the circumstances of Dre going down,” George said. “We weathered the storm. They made a push, but I thought we did enough to close out tonight.”

After the game, the Thunder’s thoughts were all with Roberson, as expected. A distraught Adams displayed seldom seen raw emotion. Adams and Roberson have grown up in Oklahoma City together as both were a part of the same 2013 rookie class.

“He’s a huge part of our team and why we win. It’s a huge blow to us. We’re just going to have to rely on some other players to step up,” Adams said. “You’re dealing with a very talented individual. Anyone goes down here, you can’t replace them.”

“I’ll be there for him along the way, try to help as much as possible of putting him in a good place with the injury,” George said. “I know how it is. I’ve been down that road before. It’s real unfortunate, but one thing about Dre is that he’s tough and he’s a strong person. He’ll definitely persevere through it.”

Despite Roberson’s injury, there were bright spots. In addition to Donovan’s club putting together yet another impressive performance on both ends of the floor (48.4 percent shooting, 14 made three-pointers and 17 forced turnovers for 24 points), it was particularly special for the team to experience Anthony’s 25,000-point accomplishment. Only 20 players in NBA history have scored more points than the Thunder forward.

“It’s a special moment just to be a part of a class like that,” Anthony said on Fox Sports Oklahoma. “Knowing all the hard work that leads into accomplishing that goal, I never dreamt of having 25,000 points. It’s a testament to all the guys I’ve played with, the guys that I’m with right now and dedication to the game of basketball.”

“That’s a blessing for me to be a part of it,” Westbrook added. “I’m honored to be able to be on this team and to witness that. I’m very proud of him and the things he’s accomplished.”

After the game, George (26 points on just 13 field goal attempts) discovered that he will be joining Westbrook for the 2018 All Star Game in Los Angeles. Roberson’s injury obviously heightened the feeling, but George said his selection was bittersweet, considering it comes as a result of New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending injury.

“Obviously I would have liked to make it under a better circumstance,” George said. “I’m happy for this to be my fifth and to go alongside Russ and be a part of this franchise to hold it down for the Thunder. I’m grateful.”

“It’s well-deserved. He’s done a great job all season long,” Westbrook noted. “Obviously I’m still praying for Cousins as well with his injury and obviously praying for Dre as well. It’s tough.”

Highlights: Thunder at Pistons

By the Numbers

13-for-22 – Shooting numbers for Russell Westbrook, part of his 31-point, 13-assist, 11-rebound triple-double

14-for-33 – Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, including a 9-for-17 mark by the starters

24-13 – The Thunder’s advantage in points off turnovers, as it forced 17 Pistons giveaways and had just 10 turnovers itself

The Last Word

“We did a great job defensively of getting out to their shooters as well as preventing them from getting to the basket. We just did a little bit of everything. It was a multiple effort kind of game.” – forward Paul George


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